In our school, we have devoted much attention to teaching the whole child. Now we would also like to look at how we can support the whole teacher. What strategies has your school implemented to make sure that teachers are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged?
—Amy Lockhart, Teacher, Malcolm Price Laboratory School, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Acknowledge What Causes Teachers’ Stress
During a half-day inservice, we conducted an exercise to explore what causes stress for staff members. We asked teachers to write down on sticky notes things that cause them daily stress, and then we sorted the notes and displayed them on opposite walls of the room according to school stressors and personal stressors. Outside issues clearly outweighed school issues. This was a powerful visual reminder that educators are often asked to be strong for students while they may not feel very strong themselves. We resolved as a staff to take more time each day building one another up and supporting one another as we create a healthy school for our students.
—Lori Mora, Assistant Principal, Deer Valley Middle School, Phoenix, Ariz.
Embrace Differing Opinions
As we face what seems to be growing criticism of schools and educators, it is crucial that we avoid the temptation to circle the wagons and discount the opinions of our critics. We need to listen, engage, and become part of the dialogue.
Toward that end, it’s more important and yet more challenging than ever to support the whole teacher. In our school, we try to foster a climate that encourages diverse opinions. We try to separate practices from personalities and to disagree without being disagreeable. We include the naysayers on committees and engage teachers in meaningful discussions and decisions on school policies, practices, and procedures. We do not confuse collegiality with congeniality, but we work on improving both.
—Scott Herrmann, Principal, Gemini Junior High School, Niles, Ill.
Bring Online Teachers Together Through Staff Development
Supporting the whole teacher is central to our virtual public school. We’ve encouraged healthy lifestyles by distributing pedometers and creating walking teams, rewarding those with the most miles. We provide almost daily professional development with synchronous and asynchronous online trainings for teachers. We frequently survey teachers to determine their needs and interests, creating trainings that are based on their responses. We work to identify teachers’ strengths, challenging them to serve as leaders in their groups. Most of all, our teachers are engaged because they know their students personally through frequent, individualized contact and lessons.
—Tracy Broccolino, Manager, Connections Virtual Academy, Baltimore, Md.
Create a Setting for Reflection
Dr. Darryl Howard, my instructor at the McNeil Educational Leadership Foundation, shared with us that effective administrators are reflective stewards—and good stewards function like thermostats, not thermometers. At my school, we strive to help our new teachers set the tone in their classrooms by helping them to be reflective and intentional. In addition, we help them learn how to be good stewards of their instructional time through professional learning communities.
—Michelle Neely, Teacher, Henry B. Gonzales Elementary School, Dallas, Tex.
Keep the Door Open
Especially nowadays, we principals must look after our staff just as we do our students. The most important thing is to have your door always open, so that teachers feel they can pop in any time; it gives them the feeling that you are there to lend a helping hand, and many times a space to listen to their queries, qualms, and so on. Second, promote a good professional development program so that teachers are challenged with new trends. Finally, strive to foster collaboration among staff. Teachers’ reflections on their teaching are more insightful if they can share their doubts, impressions, and actions with peers.
—Patsy Pouiller, Deputy Head, Primary, St. Andrew’s Scots School, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Got a question? Each month in Educational Leadership‘s “Among Colleagues” column, practicing educators draw from their own experience to share advice about challenges their colleagues face. Send your question, along with a 100-word description, to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Teaching Dilemma.”